Punk Rock's Nine Lives

The re-return of the Fab Mab

On Friday, Sept. 7, the space at 443 Broadway, once known as the Fab Mab (Mabuhay Gardens), and more recently the Velvet Lounge, reopened its doors to live music as Club 443. The place drew an almost-capacity crowd for a punk show by D'Jellybrains, Freak Accident, and the Radishes. The promoters — Tambre Bryant, who booked metal bands at the original Mab, and Tonus Atkins, a host of KUSF's Rampage Radio ­— said last week that they're optimistic about reviving the memory of the old rock haunt. “Tambre and I met with Dave [Somers] and George [Mori], who took over the club last year,” Atkins says. “We told them about its legendary past and gave them a proposal. They said go ahead. The rest, we hope, will be history.”

The Mabuhay Gardens was a failing Filipino nightclub in 1974 when promoter Dirk Dirksen talked owner Ness Aquino into booking punk and metal bands. Soon after, the Fab Mab was the West Coast CBGB's. In its 10-year run, the Mab hosted more than 20,000 bands, including Devo, Blondie, Dead Kennedys, and Metallica. Its slightly seedy interior and Dirksen's snarky turn as emcee made it the perfect punk venue. Today the space is a bit more upscale, with two nicely designed wooden bars, a revamped stage, a large dance floor, and a state-of-the-art sound system, but it's still small enough to see the performers sweat. Bryant and Atkins, with the help of HEAR (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers) founder Kathy Peck, will redecorate the place with vintage Mabuhay posters and memorabilia on live music nights.

This isn't the first time promoters have tried to revive the Fab Mab name and ethos. In 2003, Eric Mueller brought punk bands back to the venue, but Dirksen was allegedly unhappy with the use of the Fab Mab moniker, and the venture soon petered out. “That's one reason this reopening is low-key,” Bryant says. “The original Mab didn't take off immediately. It slowly found an audience. We're hoping for the same.”

In the meantime, the club will remain open as a disco on Saturdays and Thursdays, while punk shows dot the 443's calendar in October (the Addicts perform there on Thursday, Oct. 11). The crowd last week seemed better behaved and dressed than the old fans, but intrepid enthusiasm for the underground spirit of the Fab Mab could possibly keep this latest rekindling alive.

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